« AnteriorContinuar »
waters, and the heavens to give them bread and flesh, and whole armies to be destroyed with fantastic noises, and the fortune of all France to be recovered and entirely revolved, by the arms and conduct of a girl, against the torrent of the English fortune and chivalry ; can do what he please; and still retain the same affections to his people, and the same providence over mankind as ever. And it is impossible for that man to despair, who remembers, that his helper is omnipotent, and can do what he please!. Let us rest there awhile; he can if he please : and he is infinitely loving, willing enough : and he is infinitely wise ; choosing better for us, than we can do for ourselves. This, in all ages and chances, hath supported the afflicted people of God, and carried them on dry ground through a Red-sea. God invites and cherishes the hopes of men, by all the variety of his providence.
4. If your case be brought to the last extremity, and that you are at the pit's brink, even the very margin of the grave, yet then despair not; at least put it off a little longer : and remember, that whatsoever final accident takes away all hope from you, if you stay a little longer, and, in the mean while, bear it sweetly, it will also take away all despair too. For, when you enter into the regions of death, you rest from all your labours and your fears.
5. Let them who are tempted to despair of their salvation, consider, how much Christ suffered to redeem us from sin and its eternal punishment; and he, that considers this must needs believe, that the desires, which God had to save us, were not less than infinite; and therefore not easily to be satisfied without it.
6. Let no man despair of God's mercies to forgive him, unless he be sure, that his sins are greater than God's mercies. If they be not, we have much reason to hope, that the stronger ingredient will prevail, so long as we are in the time and state of repentance, and within the possibilities and latitude of the covenant, and as long as any promise can but reflect upon him with an oblique beam of comfort. Possibly the man may err in his judgment of circumstances; and therefore let him fear :. but, because it is not certain he is mistaken, let him not despair.
1 Heb. ii. 18.
7. Consider that God, who knows all the events of men, and what their final condition shall be, who shall be saved, and who will perish; yet he treateth them as his own, calls them to be his own, offers fair conditions as to his own, gives them blessings, arguments of mercy, and instances of fear, to call them off from death, and to call them home to life; and, in all this, shews no despair of happiness to them; and therefore much less should any man despair for himself, since he never was able to read the scrolls of the eternal predestination.
8. Remember, that despair belongs only to passionate fools or villains, such as were Achitophel and Judas, or else to devils and damned persons : and as the hope of salvation is a good disposition towards it; so is despair a certain consignation to eternal ruin. A man may be damned for despairing to be saved. Despair is the proper passion of damnation. “God hath placed truth and felicity in heaven; curiosity and repentance upon earth : but misery and despair are the portions of hell m.”
9. Gather together into your spirit and its treasure-house, the memory, not only all the promises of God, but also the remembrances of experience, and the former senses of the Divine favours, that, from thence, you may argue from times past to the present, and enlarge to the future, and to greater blessings. For although the conjectures and expectations of hope are not like the conclusions of faith, yet they are a helmet against the scorching of despair, in temporal things, and an anchor of the soul sure and steadfast against the fluctuations of the spirit in matters of the soul. St. Bernard reckons divers principles of hope, by enumerating the instances of the Divine mercy: and we may, by them, reduce this rule to practice, in the following manner: 1. God hath preserved me from many sins : his mercies are infinite : I hope he will still preserve me from more, and for ever. 2. I have sinned, and God smote me not : his mercies are still over the penitent: I hope, he will deliver me from all the evils I have deserved. He hath forgiven me many sins of malice ; and therefore surely he will pity my infirmities. 3. God visited my heart, and changed it: he loves the work of his own hands; and so my heart is now become : I
m V. Bede.
he gave and give me the ciple of Christa therefore I hen I was
hope, he will love this too. 4. When I repented, he received me graciously; and therefore I hope, if I do my endeavour, he will totally forgive me. 5. He helped my slow and beginning endeavours; and therefore I hope, he will lead me to perfection. 6. When he had given me something first, then he gave me more : I hope, therefore, he will keep me from falling, and give me the grace of perseverance. 7. He hath chosen me to be a disciple of Christ's institution: he hath elected me to his kingdom of grace; and therefore I hope, also to the kingdom of his glory. 8. He died for me, when I was his enemy; and therefore, I hope, he will save me, when he hath reconciled me to him, and is become, my friend. 9. “ God hath given us his Son: how should not he, with him, give us all things else ?” All these St. Bernard reduces to these three heads, as the instruments of all our hopes : 1. The charity of God adopting us; 2. The truth of his promises; 3. The power of his performance : which if any truly weighs, no infirmity or accident can break his hopes into indiscernible fragments, but some good planks will remain, after the greatest storm and shipwreck. This was St. Paul's instrument: “ Experience begets hope, and hope maketh not ashamed.”
10. Do thou take care only of thy duty, of the means and proper instruments of thy purpose, and leave the end to God: lay that up with him, and he will take care of all, that is entrusted to him: and this, being an act of confidence in God, is also a means of security to thee.
11. By special arts of spiritual prudence and arguments, secure the confident belief of the resurrection, and thou canst not but hope for every thing else, which you may reasonably expect, or lawfully desire, upon the stock of the Divine mercies and promises. • 12. If a despair seizes you in a particular temporal instance, let it not defile thy spirit with impure mixture, or mingle in -spiritual considerations : but rather let it make thee fortify thy soul in matters of religion, that, by being thrown out of your earthly dwelling and confidence, you may retire into the strengths of grace, and hope the more strongly in that, by how much you are the more defeated in this, that despair of a fortune or a success may become the necessity of all virtue.
Of Charity, or the Love of God. Love is the greatest thing that God can give'us; for himself is love : and it is the greatest thing we can give to God; for it will also give ourselves, and carry with it all, that is ours. The apostle calls it the band of perfection; it is the old, and it is the new, and it is the great commandment, and it is all the commandments ; for it is the fulfilling of the law. It does the work of all other graces, without any instrument but its own immediate virtue. For as the love to sin makes a man sin against all his own reason, and all the discourses of wisdom, and all the advices of his friends, and without temptation, and without opportunity; so does the love of God; it makes a man chaste without the laborious arts of fasting and exterior disciplines, temperate in the midst of feasts, and is active enough to choose it without any intermedial appetites, and reaches at gloty through the very heart of grace, without any other arms but those of love. It is a grace, that loves God for himself; and our neighbours, for God. The consideration of God's goodness and bounty, the experience of those profitable and excellent emanations from him, may be, and, most commonly, 'are, the first motive of our love ; but when we are once entered, and have tasted the goodness of God, we love the spring for its own excellency, passing from passion to 'reason, from thanking to adoring, from sense to spirit, from considering ourselves to an union with God : and this is the image and little representation of heaven ; it is beatitude in picture, or rather the infancy and beginnings of glory.
We need no incentives by way of special enumeration to move us to the love of God; for we cannot love any thing for any reason real or imaginary, but that excellence is infinitely more eminent in God. There can but two things create love, perfection and usefulness: to which answer on our part, 1. Admiration ; and, 2. Desire; and both these are centred in love. For the entertainment of the first, there is in God an infinite nature, immensity or vastness without extension or limit, immutability, eternity, omnipotence, omniscience, holiness, dominion, providence, bounty, mercy,
justice, perfection in himself, and the end, to which all things and all actions must be directed, and will, at last, arrive. The consideration of which may be heightened, if we consider our distance from all these glories; our smallness and limited nature, our nothing, our inconstancy, our age like a span, our weakness and ignorance, our poverty, our inadvertency and inconsideration, our disabilities and disaffections to do good, our harsh natures and unmerciful inclinations, our universal iniquity, and our necessities and dependencies, not only on God originally and essentially, but even our need of the meanest of God's creatures, and our being obnoxious to the weakest and most contemptible. But, for the entertainment of the second, we may consider, that in him is a torrent of pleasure for the voluptuous; he is the fountain of honour for the ambitious; an inexhaustible treasure for the covetous. Our vices are in love with fantastic pleasures and images of perfection, which are truly and really to be found no where but in God. And therefore our virtues have such proper objects, that it is but reasonable they should all turn into love ; for certain it is, that this love will turn all into virtue. For in the scrutinies for righteousness and judgment, when it is inquired whether such a person be a good man or no, the meaning is not, What does he believe? or what does he hope ? but what he loves ».
The Acts of Love to God are, 1. Love does all things which may please the beloved person; it performs all his commandments : and this is one of the greatest instances and arguments of our love, that God requires of us, - this is love, “ That we keep his commandments.”. Love is obedient. :
2. It does all the intimations and secret significations of his pleasure, whom we love; and this is an argument of a great degree of it. The first instance is, it makes the love accepted : but this gives a greatness and singularity to it. The first is the least, and less than it cannot do our duty; but, without this second, we cannot come to perfection. Great love is also pliant and inquisitive in the instances of its expression.
n St. Aug. 1. ii. Confes. c. 6.